What is the difference between a psychiatrist, a psychologist, and a licensed
Who can prescribe medication?
The difference between these three disciplines is primarily one of training and the scope of practice allowed to
A psychiatrist has completed medical school and received a doctor of medicine degree along with having
completed at least three or four years of specialized training in psychiatry. During this time, a psychiatrist is
trained in psychotherapy along with receiving advanced training in the use of psychotropic medication and other
medical treatments specific for emotional disorders. A psychiatrist has demonstrated a certain level of
competence by having completed appropriate testing required by state and national standards. To be
board-certified indicates that the psychiatrist has had further experience and testing indicating an even higher
level of expertise than the basic requirements for licensure.
A psychologist has a doctoral degree in psychology with training in psychotherapy and generally in
psychological testing. They have demonstrated their level of knowledge and competence through appropriate
testing for their state licensure along with having completed the required number of hours under appropriate peer
A licensed counselor generally has at least a master's level degree and has passed certain state requirements for
their licensure. They have generally received training in psychotherapy, although this may occur in a number of
different settings. It is important to inquire of any therapist what their background and credentials are regarding
Of these, only the psychiatrist is allowed to prescribe psychotropic medication.